February 2, 2006
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
Cessna Faces Fine For Misrigged Airplanes
Cessna says it hopes to cut a better deal after the FAA proposed fines of $840,000 for alleged violations stemming from a recall of 42 Cessna 182 and 172 aircraft last March. As AVweb told you then, the FAA found problems with aircraft control rigging during an inspection of the company's factory in Independence, Kan. When Cessna found more problems in early March, the FAA issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive grounding 42 airplanes, some of which had already been delivered to their new owners and were being flown by them. After further inspections, 12 of the aircraft covered by the AD were found to be not airworthy. The FAA's formal allegation against Cessna is that it failed to comply with FAA regulations in building the 42 aircraft. Even though only 12 of the planes were determined not to be airworthy, the FAA alleges that Cessna couldn't be sure that any of the 42 planes had been built to certification standards.
After the recall, inspectors found problems with cables and bolts, a stall-warning sensor that hadn't been hooked up, two cases of foreign objects in the aircraft and a rudder-trim chain off the sprocket. According to The Wichita Eagle, the company issued a statement on Monday saying it wants to meet informally with FAA officials "to reach a mutual understanding of the facts and of the final amount of the fine, if any, which is appropriate under the circumstances." The statement did not elaborate on just how 12 airplanes could leave the factory with control-rigging deficiencies. Cessna spokeswoman Bree Cox yesterday told AVweb the company was surprised the FAA issued a news release before it had met with the company to discuss the proposed sanction. She declined to comment further until after the issue of sanctions is resolved with the FAA. The FAA says it's already giving Cessna a break on the fine. Each of the 42 instances of uncertainty arising from the quality-control problems is subject to a $25,000 civil penalty ($1,050,000 in total) but the agency says it "would be willing to accept $840,000 in settlement of this matter." If the two sides don't cut a deal in the forthcoming meeting, the issue could go before an administrative law judge.
It would appear the bar has already been set pretty high for would-be rocket-racing competitors. Two Air Force Reserve F-16 pilots are the first to toss their hats (not to mention $100,000) into the ring to compete in the Rocket Racing League. Robert "Bobaloo" Rickard and Don "Dagger" Grantham, of Phoenix, both active F-16 drivers, call their team Leading Edge and they will be the first of ten teams to take delivery of a modified Velocity airframe outfitted with a liquid oxygen and kerosene rocket engine. "This is a new age of flight ... we've got one goal," Grantham told Space.com. "We're going to win, we're going to be champions." (If you're wondering, fighter pilots tend to be just a tad competitive.) While Bobaloo and Dagger may have a leg up on their future competitors in the yankin' and bankin' department, they still must perform in the same financial stratosphere that might make this an exclusive sport for reasons other than skill and courage. The $100,000 only secures their spot. They also must guarantee they can buy the $1.2 million airplane and cover the $1 million cost of competing in the six races planned for 2007. Reserve flight pay clearly ain't what it used to be.
League founders Peter Diamandis and Granger Whitelaw told Space.com that at least three more teams, including one with a female pilot, are in the wings and they fully expect 10 racers to compete in 2007. "From our website alone, we've been approached by 50 different groups," Diamandis said. Leading Edge's racer should be ready for public debut in October and will be demonstrated at the X Prize Cup in Las Cruces, N.M. There is currently a contest on to name the first plane. At least six races are planned for 2006 and two venues have been nailed down. The National Championship Air Races at Reno Stead Airport will host the semifinals and the championship race will be in Las Cruces in October of 2007. The league is taking proposals from other airports interested in hosting a race. Letters of intent are due by March 31, 2006, and detailed proposals must be done by May 31, 2006. Diamandis said it's hoped that there will be at least 10 races per season in the future.
While zipping around in fiberglass airplanes belching flame trails 20 feet long may sound challenging enough, it would appear that rocket races will be won on the ground. The planes carry only enough fuel for four minutes of powered flight and Diamandis said they'll have up to 10 minutes of glide time. But with each race lasting 90 minutes, that's a lot of fuel stops (not to mention some pretty precision dead-stick work). Considering how long it takes NASA to get a rocket ready, cycling 10 airplanes six or eight times in a span of 90 minutes looks like an interesting technical challenge and that may be the heart of the league. Diamandis is perhaps better-known as the money and drive behind the X Prize, which paid Burt Rutan and Paul Allen $10 million for being the first to launch two manned, privately funded flights into space within a two-week period. Diamandis said the racing league is another step toward making private space flight a practical reality for many people and he says it's much more than a technical challenge. "[Spaceflight] should be sexy, it should be edgy and fun," he said. "It should be more like Star Wars and Star Trek, and that's what private enterprise can do."
NASA is claiming a 10- to 20-percent improvement in forecasting error with use of airborne weather sensors attached to dozens of Mesaba Airlines planes in an experiment being carried out over the Midwest this winter. The planes, which toil on feeder routes for Northwest Airlines, are equipped to gather temperature, humidity, pressure, wind and icing data that's relayed in real time by satellite to ground stations. On the ground, forecasters get an up-to-the-minute picture of exactly what's going on with the weather and are able to adjust their isobars accordingly. "Initial research shows the airborne sensor makes a 10 to 20 percent improvement in forecast error in numerical models and that's just with temperature," said project leader Taumi Daniels. The sensors are put on commuter flights because they fly through the weather, while bigger equipment generally flies above it. In addition to the weather gear, the sensors have GPS so they can give precise location, time and altitude references for the data stream. The system not only provides better aviation forecasts, it helps make the whole weather system more accurate. Forecasters rely on data from weather balloons to conjure up forecasts and there are about 70 balloons released, twice a day, over the continental U.S. The aircraft sensors are providing an additional 800 reports each day.
The FAA says it may take further action spurred by growing concerns about the performance of Cessna Caravans in ice. FAA spokesman Les Doerr told AVweb the icing behavior of the 208-series aircraft is a "continuing concern to us" and he said it's possible the agency will take further action. He also said the agency hasn't reviewed the latest safety recommendations issued on the topic and there is no timeline for further action. On Feb. 22, the agency will adopt an AD that will require installation of a grab handle on the wing to make it easier for pilots to run their hand over the top surface to check for ice. The so-called "tactile check" was mandated by an earlier AD issued last March. The latest AD also calls for installation of de-icing boots on the belly pod and landing gear fairings of aircraft that will be used in icing conditions. However, the National Transportation Safety Board and, most recently, Canada's Transportation Safety Board, are urging strict limitations for Caravans heading into ice. The Canadian board issued its recommendations on Tuesday and they pretty much mirror suggestions issued by the NTSB two weeks ago. In its recommendations, the NTSB said Caravans should only be allowed to fly in "light" forecasted icing conditions, that the airspeed should be kept at 120 knots or higher if ice is encountered and that the autopilot be shut off. Canada took the recommendations a step further and said that pilots encountering ice in a Caravan should get out of those conditions if they can't maintain 120 knots.
Everyone likes to save a buck and if very light jets (VLJs) can stretch Uncle Sam's defense budget then the Air Force wants to know about it. The Air Force's Acquisition Center of Excellence has issued a Capability Request for Information urging VLJ manufacturers to show their stuff. The Air Force classifies VLJs as those with a maximum takeoff weight of no more than 10,000 pounds and "a commercial list price of much less than $5 million." Well, if everything goes according to plan there'll be no shortage of candidates for future military work as Eclipse, Cessna, Adam and Aircraft Technology Group (ATG) get ready to start delivering aircraft over the next year or two. The Air Force has already identified a host of potential roles the little jets could fill. Among the uses envisioned by Air Force brass are as passenger and cargo transports, and for navigation and transition training, homeland security, surveillance and target towing. At least one manufacturer has already identified the military as a prime market. ATG, which recently started flying its fighter-like Javelin prototype, plans to build a military version with ejection seats and military avionics. If the manufacturers have any other ideas on what military roles their planes could potentially fill, they're asked to include them in their response. The Air Force hopes to do some flight-testing of VLJs by the end of this year.
An explosion of low-cost carriers and a shortage of viable flight schools is behind a pilot shortage that has forced some airlines to ground aircraft and even cancel flights in India. According to Rediff.com, the country will need about 3,500 pilots in the next five years and domestic schools are only producing about 100 a year. The shortage is so acute that the government has taken drastic measures over the past year to try and minimize the impact on travelers. In December, the mandatory retirement age was increased to 65 (a pilot younger than 60 must be in the cockpit) but it's the so-called anti-poaching legislation that has pilots in the biggest lather. As the new airlines opened up, they naturally tried to lure pilots from other carriers and money is the most obvious incentive. Indian airline pilots make about $10,000 a month, ten times what an Indian air force jockey makes. To cut down on cherry picking by pilots (and the schedule disruption it brings), the government passed a law that requires pilots to give six months' notice before switching airlines. The law also prohibits them from refusing to work a normal number of flights during the six months.
An orbit change by one of two satellites providing Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) signals for precision GPS approaches could result in the vertical component of those signals being unavailable at times in the next couple of months. According to AOPA, when the move is finished, WAAS service will be lost to a couple of Maine airports until the fall. Inmarsat, which owns the satellite, is moving it further west to boost coverage there. As the satellite makes its way, signals necessary for LPV (lateral precision with vertical guidance) approaches may not be there. NOTAMs will be issued. Most pilots and airports will hardly notice the transition (non-WAAS GPS units use the Air Force's constellation of 24 satellites), but those who've become accustomed to the LPV approaches at Portland, Maine, and Concord, N.H., will have to make other plans for the summer. The westward move of Inmarsat's satellite will eliminate the WAAS signal to those airports and it won't be until the fall, when the FAA starts renting space on a third satellite, that the gap will be filled.
News in Brief
New Jersey Rep. Steven Rothman says the FAA will regret it if the agency continues to stand in the way of local authorities who want to curb flights into Teterboro Airport. "If the FAA were to punish the Port Authority for taking any of these actions, I would use every ounce of strength I had, and every bit of support I have on the House subcommittee, and every other legislative means, to make the FAA wish that they had never even heard of Teterboro," Rothman, a Democrat, told Bloomberg News. Rothman is part of the chorus of discontent that is trying to reduce traffic at the airport, which caters mainly to private aircraft delivering VIPs and business leaders to Manhattan's doorstep. There are signs, however, that the issue will resolve itself naturally as overcrowding impacts the airport's convenience. "I'd rather be in traffic on the Long Island Expressway," said Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. Chief Executive Officer James Hagedorn, who's been kept waiting on the ramp once too often. TEB is one of the busiest airports on the East Coast and its two runways recorded 202,000 operations last year. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, local politicians and federal representatives like Rothman want a 10-percent reduction in operations and they also want to further reduce the maximum weight of aircraft using the facility to 80,000 pounds from 100,000 pounds. But the FAA says it won't let that happen without a fight and it's threatened to demand repayment of grants it's issued for airport improvements if the restrictions are imposed. Those grants always come with the rider that the airport remain accessible to the public. "The FAA is resisting us," Port Authority spokesman Marc La Vorgna said. "Our belief is that we have the right to make these restrictions."
Rendered paraplegic 17 years ago, 34-year-old Carlana Stone Monday became "the first female paraplegic in the United States" to solo a single-engine aircraft, according to NBC news. The flight was conducted from Whiteman Airport in Pacoima, Calif....
As expected, Transport Canada has relented and will create a U.S.-style temporary flight restriction on its side of the border for next Sunday's SuperBowl in Detroit. Canadian Forces F/A-18 aircraft will also take part in the aerial cover operation that will enforce the restrictions...
Small towns in the U.S. that want to improve airline service can tap into a grant program (docket OST-2006-23671) that provides money to lure carriers into marginal markets. A total of $10 million is available and it will be divided between 40 communities...
Cessna's Mustang program continues ahead of schedule with the first flight of its third personal jet taking place last Friday, a week early. It's the second production model to join the prototype in the air...
Grand prize in EAA's membership contest this year is a two-year lease of a Diamond DA40. There will also be subsidiary prizes awarded to names drawn from among those who sign up or renew their membership.
Drop us a line. If it caught your attention, it will probably interest someone else, too. Submit news tips via email to email@example.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.
Say Again? #59: Dear Chip
On January 1, 2006, Warren "Chip" Jones replaced Don Brown as the Facility Safety Representative of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) at Atlanta Center. Don will continue his work as a Safety Representative for NATCA while he prepares for his upcoming retirement. Don's column this month is his advice letter to Chip.
Dick Taylor takes you IFR, making sure you understand the requirements and the not-so-common sense behind selecting suitable and legal alternate airports. Click through to make sure you've got it right.
ASO -- A Better Way to Sell Your Aircraft Share
HAVE YOU SIGNED UP yet for AVwebs NO-COST twice monthly Business AVflash? Reporting on breaking news, Business AVflash also focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the Business of Aviation. Business AVflash is a must read. Watch for a Business AVflash regular feature, TSA WATCH: GA IN THE "SPOTLIGHT". Sign up today at http://www.avweb.com/profile/
Mike Busch Announces 2006 Schedule of Savvy Owner Seminars
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb asked your opinion on wolf hunting from the air, a practice that's recently been banned in Alaska.
The majority of readers who participated in our poll said no, wolf-hunting should not be allowed. (This accounted for 57% of our total responses.)
A smaller faction of readers (30%) said that yes, this type of wolf-hunting should be allowed.
And a substantial 13% of those who took our poll responded There's a reason nobody asked me; it's really none of my business.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
Certain physical laws sometimes conspire to make your aircraft a particularly good target for enormous natural electric discharges in the atmosphere (lightning).
Has your aircraft ever been the target of a lightning strike?
Click here to answer
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Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions | Past POTW Winners
With the year-ending holidays behind us, submissions to AVweb's "Picture of the Week" contest are climbing again. This week we received just shy of 100 submissions, with 22 of them making it into the final round as potential contest winners. After our usual head-scratching and coffee-drinking, we finally managed to pick a winner an interesting perspective shot from Jim Wilson of Allen, Texas.
Like all "POTW" winners, Jim will be getting an official AVweb cap to keep his head warm this winter. If you'd like to try for one of those hats or just share your amateur aviation photos with an audience that's happy to ooh and ahh over them submit your photos here.
*** THIS WEEK'S WINNERS ***
"One of the Best of the Best"
Frankly, we're not exactly sure what Jim Wilson of Allen, Texas intended with that caption title. Is it the plane or the pilot who's among "the best of the best"? Maybe it's a sterling endorsement of Avemco or B.F. Goodrich. Or eeriest possibility of all did Jim have a premonition that the odd perspective on this shot would lead to its being named AVweb's "Picture of the Week"?
In case you're wondering, Jim got this great angle using a "custom-built I-strut mount" to hold the camera, which he triggered by radio remote control.
|AVweb continues to receive a large number of excellent images for our POTW contest. Here are some of the runners-up. Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.|
"The Heat Is On!"
Scott Hoggard of Dundalk, Maryland would know all about heat. This shot of Thunderbird #6 brought us close enough to practically feel the exhaust! The photo came from an exhibition at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland last year.
"A Paparazzi Perspective"
Dale Coleman of Oldham, Greater Manchester (U.K.) slows things down a bit with this Aerospatiale take-off. (Or is it a landing in progress?)
"Diving in the Caribbean"
Dan Valentine of London, England (U.K.) submitted some terrific photos this week. Dan's name cropped up on so many of our finalists that we were hard-pressed to choose just one his photos to run in the "POTW" feature but somehow we managed. Hope you approve of our choice, Dan ... !
"Moon over Mirabel"
Fabian Becze of Notre Dame de l'ile Perrot, Québec (Canada) captured this tranquil moment back in 2004, before Mirabel International was closed to passengers flights, on a "cheapy cam" (his words) that he usually took to work with him. The camera may not have been Fabian's top-of-the-line equipment, but the colors were just too striking to ignore. This one went directly into our desktop wallpaper file.
"Liberty Belle Returns"
Cyril Matthews of Windsor, California was making his way to Disney World in Orlando, Florida when he saw the B-17 Flying Fortress Liberty Belle cross over Intersate-4 no doubt bound for its current engagement at the Fantasy of Flight Museum.
"Short Final for Two-Niner"
No laughs in this AVweb short final just a beautiful calm sunset as our Saab 340 makes its way home to St. John's International Airport in Newfoundland, Canada. Courtesy of Gary Hebbard of St. John's, Newfoundland.
To enter next week's contest, click here.
A Reminder About Copyrights: Please take a moment to consider the source of your image before submitting to our "Picture of the Week" contest. If you did not take the photo yourself, ask yourself if you are indeed authorized to release publication rights to AVweb. If you're uncertain, consult the POTW Rules or send us an e-mail.Names Behind The News
AVwebFlash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the internet's aviation magazine and news service.
Today's issue was written by news writer Russ Niles (bio).
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